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Tarago in windstorm

Tarago Village Hall was packed to capacity last Sunday afternoon with residents voicing their concerns about the proposed Jupiter Wind Farm.

Over 200 residents attended the meeting along with Member for Goulburn Pru Goward, Member for Hume Angus Taylor, Palerang Shire Mayor Peter Harrison, and also Councillors Richard Graham and deputy mayor Belinda Hogarth- Boyd.

The proposal by Australian/Spanish company EPYC is for the construction of 110 turbines stretching across an area of 12,000 hectares from the southern edge of Lake Bathurst in the north down past the King’s Highway at Mulloon.

The proposed cost of the turbines is estimated at $400 million, with each turbine at a height of approximately 110 metres, with three 63m rotor blades, which would take the turbine height to over 170 metres, (or the height of a 60 storey building).

It would also cover the properties of 25 landowners.

Tarago residents Leonie Martin and Graham and Pamela Hawke arranged the meeting at the hall along with other concerned residents.

Both Mr Taylor and Ms Goward listened to the concerns of the residents and have promised to bring the developers to account.

“It’s a credit to the community that they are having this discussion so early on in the process,” Mr Taylor said.

According to minutes taken from the meeting, legislative guidelines for how far set back the turbines must be was still unclear, and it was said that under current legislation they can be set back from a dwelling by only 300 metres.

Ms Goward however confirmed that the set back was actually 1.7km.

She also confirmed that the NSW Department of Planning wrote a letter to EPYC in regards to the issues raised by the residents about the lack of community consultation.

Another concern that was raised was the one of whether there would be more than one stage in the proposal such was the case with the Capital and Woodlawn wind farms.

“There are two more wind measuring towers located on the ridges to the west of Tarago right behind the railway station and again near Braidwood Rd near Lake Bathurst, and these belong to another wind turbine company yet to make its way into the public domain,” the minutes report states.

Many residents also had concerns that Tarago has become a ‘dumping ground’ for the state’s unwanted waste.

“We have the wind turbines, the Veolia bioreactor at Woodlawn for Sydney’s rubbish and also mine drilling operations at Cullula Rd,” the report stated.

“There is also a feeling that despite the strong turnout here at the meeting today that the total cost of the project will push it into a State level, and in our opinion the government won’t hold an interest.”

There were even concerns raised about what impacts the consultation process by EPYC would have on the community.

“There has been community division created in both the Taralga and Collector processes,” the report states.

“Wind turbine companies create this situation by making both a winner and a loser, whereby they manipulate the community by contacting some people and not others.

“Also now that the proposal exists landowners have already suffered a loss in the value of their properties, backed by information from potential buyers, buyers in contracts and also real estate agents confirming that people are therefore backing out of house sales, which makes them harder to sell.”

Ms Goward admitted that initially at first wind turbines were a ‘romantic’ idea, but that in 20/20 hindsight there wasn’t any thought given to the protection of communities.

She encouraged the residents to keep sending submissions and to keep the Department under pressure.

“This is an unfair subsidy and it is also too inefficient,” she said.

A resident raised concern in regards to the consultation process between EPYC and Palerang Council.

They noted that as of the council meeting on February 6, council knew nothing of the wind farm proposal as it had not received a DA from the company.

“If EPYC has poor consultation with both Palerang Council and with the community in general, what confidence shall we have in future dealings with a company that has treated us in such a disrespectful way?” the resident said.

Another resident noticed that Tarago did not even rate a mention in the Director General’s Environmental Assessment requirements on the Department of Planning’s website. The report stated: “Consideration of impacts on community facilities within local towns including Bungendore and Braidwood, as a result of demands imposed by construction and operation stage workers;” Leonie Martin expressed her concern at this statement.

“Tarago does not even get a mention, and I think that speaks volumes of how out-of-touch the decision makers are with small rural areas such as ours,” she said.